B.C. leads the country in ‘social well-being’, Manitoba and Saskatchewan lag behind

Well-being outcomesThere was a lot of buzz, on Wednesday, about Statistics Canada's latest Household Survey, which highlights the nation's incomes, savings and types of households.

The reports are very informative, but that's only part of the story in terms of a 'scorecard' on the well-being of Canadians.

In addition to economic indices, there are also social indices.

This week, the Broadbent Institute has released report on just that — by compiling statistics on life expectancy, student achievement, infant mortality, homicides, incarceration, teenage pregnancy, trust in others, social mobility, mental health and obesity, they've created provincial rankings of what they call social well-being.

Social well-being ranking% *
British Columbia183
Prince Edward Island387
Nova Scotia593
Newfoundland and Labrador697
New Brunswick798

* Lower % = better performance

"Overall, the provinces share relatively similar well-being outcomes, with the exception of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, which perform poorly compared to the other provinces," notes the report.

"These provinces’ poor performances are likely largely due to the fact that they have much higher than average Aboriginal populations; while Aboriginal people account for 4 per cent of the total Canadian population, they represent 15 per cent of Manitoba and Saskatchewan’s populations.

"The incarceration rate for Aboriginal persons is about ten times higher than the rate for non-Aboriginals, the homicide rate is seven times higher, and the teen pregnancy rate is up to six times higher. The infant mortality rate among Aboriginal groups ranges from about 1.7 to 4 times the rate for non-Aboriginals."

[ Related: National Household Survey: Canada’s median income reaches $47,868 ]

The other interesting thing about the study is that the cumulative scores are very similar despite the fact that there is a wide variance in income and income inequality between the provinces.

Andrew Jackson, a Senior Policy Adviser with the Broadbent Institute, attributes that to Canada's federal equalization program.

"Even though income per person differs a lot between the provinces, social spending per person is a lot narrower across the provinces," he told Yahoo! Canada News,

Jackson says that's not the case in the United States citing a 2010 study that suggested that social well-being varies by state depending on the level of income inequality.

[ Related: Governments need to do things differently in light of rising tuition costs: think tank ]

While most provinces have a similar overall score, there are some stark differences in some of the categories.

For example, average math and literacy scores are almost 10 per cent higher in Quebec than they are in PEI; homicide rates are six times higher in Manitoba than in PEI; and incarceration rates are nearly four times higher in Manitoba than they are in Nova Scotia.

Another interesting statistic is the issue about trust: 68 per cent of Prince Edward Islanders believe "people can be trusted" compared to only 35 per cent in the province of Quebec.

The full study, written by Jennifer Mason can be seen here.

Selected indices:

Life expectancy

Homicide rates

Teenage births


Infant mortality rates

(Photos and graphs courtesy of the Broadbent Institute)

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